[gov3009-l] Applied Statistics Workshop: James Scanlan on Wed., October 17

Konstantin Kashin kkashin at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Oct 15 03:17:32 EDT 2012

Dear all,
Please join us for the Applied Statistics Workshop (Gov 3009) this
Wednesday, October 17 from 12.00 - 1.30 pm in CGIS Knafel Room 354. James
Scanlan <http://www.jpscanlan.com/homepage.html>, an Attorney at Law, will
give a presentation entitled "The Mismeasure of Group Differences in the
Law and the Social and Medical Sciences". As always, a light lunch will be


This paper addresses the problematic nature of efforts in the law and the
> social and medical sciences to appraise the comparative circumstances of
> advantaged and disadvantaged groups on the basis of standard measures of
> differences in outcome rates, given that such measures tend to be
> systematically affected by the prevalence of an outcome. The rarer an
> outcome the greater tends to be the relative difference in experiencing it
> and the smaller tends to be the relative difference in avoiding it. Thus,
> for example, as mortality declines relative differences in mortality of
> advantaged and disadvantaged groups tend to increase while relative
> differences in survival tend to decrease; as procedures like immunization
> and cancer screening become more common, relative differences in rates of
> receipt of those procedures tend to decrease while relative differences in
> rates of failing to receive them tend to increase; relaxing mortgage
> lending criteria tends to increase relative differences in mortgage
> rejection rates while reducing relative differences in mortgage approval
> rates. Similarly, among subpopulations where adverse outcomes are
> comparatively rare (e.g., persons with high education or high income,
> British civil servants), relative differences in adverse outcomes tend to
> be larger, while relative differences in favorable outcomes tend to be
> smaller, than among subpopulations where adverse outcome are more common.
> Absolute differences between outcome rates and differences measured by odds
> ratios are unaffected by whether one examines the favorable or the adverse
> outcome. But such measures tend also to be affected by the overall
> prevalence of an outcome, though in a more complicated way than the two
> relative differences. Broadly, as uncommon outcomes become more common
> absolute differences tend to increase; as already common outcomes become
> even more common, absolute differences tend to decrease. Differences
> measured by odds ratios tend to change in the opposite direction of
> absolute differences as the prevalence of an outcome changes. The paper
> will explain these patterns and the misinterpretations of data on group
> differences arising from the failure to understand them. It will also
> describe a method for appraising the size of the difference in
> circumstances reflected by outcome rates of advantaged and disadvantaged
> groups that is theoretically unaffected by the prevalence of the outcome.

An up-to-date schedule for the workshop is available at


Konstantin Kashin
Ph.D. Candidate in Government
Harvard University

Mobile: 978-844-0538
E-mail: kkashin at fas.harvard.edu
Site: http://www.konstantinkashin.com/<http://people.fas.harvard.edu/%7Ekkashin/>
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